Alcovida: The farewell has been postponed by the second surge
This story first appeared in Times of India Blog
Just when we thought we could move closer to old normal – or simply move closer – we are being swept away by the rising tide of infections. Covid-19 peaked and ebbed in 2020, but has engulfed us again. Unlike the brash young billionaires of silicon startups, it clearly won’t be ‘21, and done’. Coronavirus is changing its spikes faster than electorally expedient politicians.
Last year, the Vaccine was as devoutly sought as the Holy Grail. Knights in scientific armour found it. But it’s not yet ‘Jab we met and lived freely ever after’. So, how will we cope with new new normal of the second surge? As devout desis, we could simply invoke the cosmic trimurti: Vishnu, the preserver of our O2 levels, Shiva the destroyer of the viral load, and Brahma the creator of a firewall against infection. But there’s no way we can avoid a fully prostrate ashtanga namaskaram to its secular avatar: masks, social distancing and handwashing.
Not only must we bow to this triumvirate of behaviour change, we have been forced to accept meaning change – of these three plus two other totems of the pandemic.
- Mask. In its original form it was sinister, mysterious, covert. Covid has transformed it into something openly admirable, the mark of a person facing up to his or her social responsibility.
- Handwashing. It was either boringly routine or Lady-Macbeth psychotic. Its elevation has been as dramatic as No 1’s.
- Social Distancing. Again, this once had casteist overtones of ultra vires to the Constitution vis-à-vis Art 17, and punishable under Sec 153A, IPC. Now not practising untouchability 2.0 invites institutional wrath.
- Positive. This one has moved from desirable to dreaded. The darling of motivational speakers sinks heart and hope when it appears on a test report.
- WFH used to be about women with small kids trying to scrounge some crumbs from their shelved careers. The pandemic turned it into the pan-imperative of corporate functioning. Boon and bane, WFH let you attend meetings in comfy trackpants, but made working hours stretch uncomfortably. Now the second wave has cut off all escape from online. Might as well embrace it with ‘Zoomma, chumma de de’.
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Alec Smart said: “In ministries, Home is where the hafta is.”